A Dime Novel Hero

His Unexpected Wife

Mail-Order Bride

Outlaw's Bride

To Find You Again

Untamed Hero

Arouse Suspicion by Maureen McKade
(Berkley $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-425-19919-3
Writer Nick Sirocco is the product of the ghetto and had been saved from a life of crime by Paddy Hawkins, a caring police officer. After high school, Nick joined the Army Rangers and subsequently became famous as the creator of a fictional hero. Rewriting the same story, book after book, became old and Nick turned to his long time mentor, Paddy, for technical assistance in creating a cop thriller novel.

Apparently the last telephone call Paddy ever made was to Nick. His call alluded to a specific criminal activity he had uncovered. By the time Nick received the message on his machine Paddy is dead, allegedly by his own hand.

This is something Nick cannot accept and he beings an investigation. Quickly he antagonizes the cops in Paddy’s precinct and he changes tactics and the novel really opens as he seeks the help of Paddy’s daughter.

Danni has had a peculiar relationship with her father. At an early age her mother left, leaving Danni exclusively in Paddy’s care. Apart from his very consuming police work, he established and ran a center for at-risk teenagers hovering on the brink of adulthood. Danni competed with these commitments for his time and attention, always coming out in third place.

Danni retired as a cop when her partner was killed and now is a private investigator. Nick persuades Danni to listen to Paddy’s last message, which foreshadows his death and convinces her to help him. After several attempts to kill one or both of them and Nick’s trashed apartment, Danni is persuaded someone is trying to divert them from their investigation.

Both characters come with tremendous amounts of emotional baggage and much of the novel is spent working through this on both Danni and Nick’s part. The remainder is spent in a rather hapless search for clues to Paddy’s staged suicide. The youth center quickly becomes the key as a young offender who had worked with Paddy commits suicide just prior to taking a plea bargain on a theft charge. This seemingly links the two deaths and Danni and Nick have a direction to head.

The novel is weighted with crime and romance equally balanced. Mystery fans will quickly recognize the plot although the wrongdoers are apprehended without much of a foreshadowing to their identity. The principal characters are well enough developed but the secondary ones regretfully blend together.

The most descriptive word Above Suspicion is predictable. That said, the characters are likeable enough, the plot is intricately woven together tightly enough to afford the reader an interesting if not exciting read.

--Thea Davis

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